Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Virgo Galaxy Cluster!

Messier 88
Got up at 3am and had a long trip through the Virgo Galaxy Cluster! It was a chilly 25 degrees F but I was layered up and ready to go.  I added 6 more Messier objects to my viewed list and 7 more to my Herschel 400 list before the sun started to brighten the horizon at which time I popped over for a visit with Saturn.

The Virgo Galaxy Cluster is about 54 million light years away and contains a minimum of 1,300 galaxies, possibly as many as 2,000. Viewing it with a telescope is fantastic... I just hopped from galaxy to galaxy. Normally I'm lost in the stars, this morning I was lost in galaxies! If there had been more time before the sunrise I could have easily stayed in this little area of the sky for many more hours. The number of galaxies is overwhelming.
Markarian's Chain

My favorites of the night were Messier 88 in Coma Berenices as well as the various galaxies that make up Markarian's Chain. What a sight! Messier 88 actually shows a bit of structure though it is faint in my 8" telescope (and obviously nothing like the detailed image above).

I expect that my next 3-4 morning sessions will be spent in this cluster of galaxies. The moon will be setting later these next couple days so I'll have less time each day between moon set and sunrise. I hope to squeeze in another morning session tonight!

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